Ten Movie Recommendations

A while ago people on Facebook were posting lists of lesser-known movies that they thought everyone should see. These days I access Facebook only through the intermediary of Doad, but I have nevertheless compiled my contributions. In no particular order, I recommend:

  • Metropolis (1926): In the silent film that makes modern science fiction look cheesy, Fritz Lang taps into the Wellsian mythos of class division to show that “the mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart.”
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (2008):  Anime’s premiere director, Hayao Miyazaki, is still relatively unknown in America, and this beautiful fairy tale covers his hallmarks–complex female protagonists, strange flying machines, the relationship between man and nature, storytelling without an antagonist–in a fun and accessible way.
  • The Spitfire Grill (1996): A gentle story of redemption about a girl just released from jail who moves to a small town in Maine to start her life over.
  • The Hand (1965):  Czech puppet master Jiri Trnka created a film 19 minutes long, wordless, stop-motion, and banned in the USSR.  Why are you not watching it already?  (Part 1)  (Part 2)
  • The United States of Poetry (1995):  Out of print in video and never released on DVD, this PBS miniseries explores the diverse cultures of America through poems read by the authors (and Jack Kerouac read by Johnny Depp).  YouTube to the rescue!
  • Zardoz (1974):  Zardoz is not a good movie.  It is a terrible movie.  It is so terrible that even people who like terrible movies think it’s terrible.  You do not know what terrible means until you have seen this movie.  Also, Sean Connery in an orange Speedo.
  • M (1931):  Fritz Lang’s first talkie makes innovative use of sound, silence, motion, and stillness to probe the life of a serial killer played by a wide-eyed Peter Lorre.
  • Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008):  Although everyone I know has probably seen it, Joss Whedon’s independent online film slipped under the radar of the moviegoing public as a whole.  His characteristic silly yet carefully crafted dialogue infuses this story about an underdog supervillain with surprising emotional depth.
  • District 13 (2004):  Parkour master David Belle makes running away from everything look cool in this film set in a dark near-future Paris, produced with practically no stunt doubles or special effects.
  • The Battle of Algiers (1966):  I doubt any war story has ever been so even-handed and yet so emotionally gripping as this about the Algerian revolution against the French.  If that doesn’t interest you, watch it for Ennio Morricone’s brilliantly gritty soundtrack.

That covers 82 years and five countries, and includes drama, comedy, action, science fiction, kids’ movies, and short films.  If you’re unfamiliar with any of these movies…well, that’s what this list is for.

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